WASHINGTON - Stymied by opponents in Congress, the Obama administration took some modest steps Thursday to keep military-grade firearms and machine guns from felons and other dangerous people.
Current law puts restrictions on military grade weapons such as fully automatic machine guns and short-barreled shotguns -- requiring a thorough background check and a special license to possess them. But, when a person registers these weapons to a trust or corporation they are able to evade the licensing and background check requirement, according to the White House.
This means that felons, domestic abusers, and the dangerously mentally ill can easily evade the law and obtain these military weapons, Vice President Joe Biden said.
Another administrative action Thursday would end a practice in which the federal government lets military weapons, sold or donated to U.S. allies, to be reimported into the United States without background checks. Now only museums and a few other entities like the government will be eligible to reimport these military-grade firearms.
The National Rifle Association immediately condemned the White House action as overreach and ineffective.
But Biden, citing statistics that the U.S. had approved 250,000 dangerous guns to be reimported without background checks since 2005, said the executive orders, though far short of the proposed elimination of the gun show loophole the Senate blocked in April, will help ease access to dangerous guns.
"It's simple, it's straightforward, it's common sense," said Biden of the new executive action.
Biden has been the president's point person on guns since last December's mass killing of first graders at a Connecticut elementary school.